Thursday, July 23, 2009

One Dream or Another.

“Why do you have a jet sticker on your car?” the little boy asked me, referring to the F-16 Fighter Jet decal on the trunk of my Toyota. And as his mother and he looked at me with inquisitive eyes, I prepared and spouted out one of my usual answers: a) “It came on the car.” b) “My brother stuck it there and now it won’t come off!” c) “My dad was in the Air Force.” d) “I thought my car would go faster with a jet on the back!”

The truth though, is that sticker (which is actually a removable magnet) was given to me by my recruiter about a year and a half ago. Yep. That’s right: my short-haired, pamphlet toting, easy talking Military Recruiter for the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG). I was one step from joining and three steps from attaining my dream of being a fighter pilot. Then things changed.

As far back as I can remember my father was a part of the VTANG. The first of the month would come around and he would come home with a clean looking, short haircut before heading up to The Base for his weekend duty. He would return home in his fatigues and combat boots, walking into the kitchen to holler “Attention!” at which point all of us kids would tumble into our best military ‘attention’ pose to receive whatever little treat he had brought home for us. It was part of my life.

Each year he would depart for 2 weeks to some far place that I would find on a map and wonder about. He returned in fatigues and combat boots with treats that looked exotic. It was part of my life.

Summers included air shows where I would watch in awe as The Green Mountain Boy’s fighter jets would go roaring by. A feeling of power coursed through my veins. They could fly a distance in 10 minutes that would take a car two hours to travel. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be a fighter pilot. It was part of my life.

In 2007 my dad was called up and asked to go on a mission to Iraq. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was all we were told. He was trained, armed, and sent off to protect a country I only knew of from the Internet and news stories. It was just a part of my life.

While dad was away and I was home filling in the gaps, I thought a lot about what I was going to do with this life. I had so many dreams and desires, passions I wanted to follow and yet...attaining them seemed really hard. I was newly out of college and working a job that left me disenchanted and in a funk. I needed something to prove to myself that I was smart and could do something better. I also felt I needed to prove that to the people around me. ‘See! See! Look at me! I really am a smart kid. And I can be awesome.’ It seemed only right to go after something that had been an important part of my life all these years and so I made the call to my dad’s friend on The Base, “I want to join. To be a pilot. Who do I talk to?”

And thus began the process.

For the next six months I dedicated myself to studying for my ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), went through a rigorous physical exam, passed with flying colors (perfect eyes and weight for a pilot!), interviewed for an Officer position, was offered numerous jobs and great benefits, and had many discussions with my family, friends, and Devin about where this decision would lead my life.

At this point my dad had returned safely home and supported and encouraged me to join a “family” he loved. Was this really meant to be a part of my life? Could I really be a fighter pilot AND be great at everything else I wanted to do? Alongside my Top Gun dream of flying at break neck speeds were dreams of becoming an amazing photographer: An artist that people read about and wanted to meet. Fantastical dreams of galleries full of people looking at work I had created with inspiration, hard work, and determination danced in my mind with clarity. Could I have that and my fighter jet?

Seven months after my initial phone call to The Base, I wrapped up my fighter pilot dreams in a manila folder and filed them away indefinitely for another life. Now when I see a fighter jet go overhead, I pause and wait for the noise and rush that follows it. Even if I ever fully attain my photography dream, I will still feel an energy course through my veins and will want to climb into that pilot’s seat.

I tried once to take the magnet off of my car, but ended up putting it back on. The clean mark it left amid all of the dust and dirt was too apparent. I needed it to be there. It is a reminder to me that sometimes in order to pursue one dream, another must be set aside. And really, that is okay.

Have you ever had to set aside one dream to follow another?


Tom said...

Thanks for sharing your dream.
Dad-in-law (soon!)

Orchard Cove Photography said...

That was really nice to read about, Kathleen. Thanks for sharing in it and in such a beautiful way.

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